My grandmother chose euthanasia after being diagnosed with cancer. I did TikToks about my last visit with her.
Ali Tate Cutler recently discovered that his grandmother chose to euthanize herself.
Cutler filmed his last visit with his grandmother on TikTok to de-stigmatize discussions of death.
This is the story of what happened when it went viral, told to Charissa Cheong.
This say-to-say essay is based on a conversation with Ali Tate Cutler, a 32-year-old model and self-love coach in Austin, Texas. It has been edited for length and clarity.
A month and a half ago, I learned that my grandmother had stage 4 ovarian cancer.
When we were informed as a family, we wanted to be extremely supportive of any decision my grandmother would make regarding her health. Doctors presented him with a number of options, none of which would result in a cure. Finally, she decided to receive medical assistance in dying, which has been legal in Canada since 2016.
Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are legal in Canada. Euthanasia is when a doctor or nurse practitioner injects a patient with a substance that kills them. Physician-assisted suicide is when a doctor or nurse practitioner prescribes a drug for a patient that they can take to die.
She hasn’t set a date yet, but last week she gave me the opportunity to go visit her one last time.
Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I had to do. While we were together I asked him if we could make some videos to post on my TikTok account where I sometimes share life updates because I thought it would be helpful for people to hear him talk of death.
The videos exploded and received more than 17 million views in total, but with them came backlash, online debates and a whole host of questions.
I was accused of using my grandmother’s story to ‘influence’ when I posted my videos
My grandmother, whom I call Bubbie, is the grandmother I have the closest relationship with. I’ve always had a great connection with her and admire her for sticking so firmly to her opinions.
I was happy when she agreed to make videos with me, even though she didn’t understand how social media worked. I suggested we do an interview in which I asked her about how she felt moving forward to the current day, and we filmed some more clips of the two of us.
I wanted to show people what I saw in her, which was a woman who was dying well. She wasn’t afraid and she wasn’t afraid of him. I wanted to document what it was like to die with ease and without fear.
After posting the TikTok videos, I noticed that they were going viral quickly, and that’s when I saw that they were causing controversy. Euthanasia is illegal in several US states and countries around the world, and a few people had moral or religious objections to my Bubbie’s choices, which they voiced in my comments on TikTok.
My videos also went viral on Twitter after several people captured them and posted them there. Some people have accused me of using my grandmother’s story to get some clout and go viral. Many of them asked questions like, “Why would you post something like that?”
My question is, why not? We’re in a time where we talk about everything and nothing on social media, so why then when I want to talk about someone’s last moments, it’s not OK?
I think especially in the West, death is such a taboo subject that my videos made people feel uncomfortable. But even though some people have questioned my intentions and going viral has exposed me to the more negative side of humanity, I hope other people will come back from my posts with new thoughts on the death, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
I would love to see more people choose to be open about death on social media
On TikTok, I would say about 95% of the comments were positive, and I noticed a lot of people saying that my posts made them cherish their older parents more.
My family is thrilled that the videos also sparked a conversation about physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, as online commenters who saw my video started discussing their views on this and whether they thought that governments should be involved in people’s decisions about death.
It even helped me on a personal level. Although I had some reservations about the topic before this, it helped process my grief to hear my Bubbie’s thoughts and the thoughts of thousands of supportive commenters who shared their own stories of their dying loved ones.
I also feel honored and blessed to have videos of my grandmother from this part of her life. I can always watch those videos and say, “That’s my grandmother,” and reflect on the beauty and brevity of life.
I would love to see more conversations like this take place on social media. I want to see more videos of people in their final moments talking about the lessons they’ve learned and what they think will happen to their conscience when they’re dead. I think it would help the rest of us prepare and understand death a little more.
I hope everyone who is going through a period of loss in their life can refer to these videos I made with my grandmother and that it will inspire them to receive this parting knowledge from their elders.
There’s no better way to honor them on their journey than by hearing their story.
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